Friday, 7 October 2016

Profit, Rent, Interest and Asset Prices - Part 2 of 19

An objective basis for determining the mass of surplus value then exists. Under previous modes of production, when surplus value took the form of rent, its extent was limited by the amount of labour that the producer could undertake, and the amount of necessary labour they must undertake to reproduce their labour-power. Under capitalism, so too now, when that labour-power is sold as a commodity, an amount of value is required as a minimum to reproduce that labour-power, whilst the value that the worker can produce is limited by the length of the normal working-day. The industrial worker may be required to work longer and more intensively than a peasant in previous modes of production. Some of the limitations on the peasant are removed for the industrial worker, for example, in a factory, the restrictions imposed by the weather, seasons, hours of daylight may not exist.

However, the hours that an industrial worker can work are not arbitrary either. Unless the normal working day is also objectively determined, there can be no objective basis for the production of surplus value, and so Marx's theory would collapse. As Marx sets out in Capital Volume I, in the early stages of industrial capitalism, it appears that no such limitations exist. Workers are worked even more brutally than animals. The actual working-day often extends even way beyond the 24 hours of the nominal working-day. Basing himself on Engels extensive analysis in “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, Marx points to the examples of train drivers and so on, who worked 36 hour shifts.

Representatives of the capitalist state, like
Factory Inspector Leonard Horner, had to
impose the interests of capital in general,
over the private interests of the many
capitals that were driven by competition
into behaviour that threatened its own
existence.  It is an example of the capitalist
state acting as the executive committee
of the capitalist class.
But, this kind of excess is only possible when the supply of labour-power appears almost inexhaustible. As Marx describes, in these early stages, British capital destroyed three generations of workers in just one generation, such was the extent to which the workers' life expectancy was reduced. However, as Marx also describes, even the capitalists began to realise that this could not continue, as this supply of labour-power, began to dry up, and along with it, their source of profits. They were forced to introduce regulation of their own activities via the Factory Acts, and the Ten Hours Act etc.

“Factory legislation, that first conscious and methodical reaction of society against the spontaneously developed form of the process of production, is, as we have seen, just as much the necessary product of modern industry as cotton yarn, self-actors, and the electric telegraph.” (Capital I, Chapter 15, p 451)

Moreover, in his analysis of the value of labour-power, and determination of wages, Marx demonstrates the objective basis for the determination of the normal working day. Wages are the phenomenal form of the value of labour-power, which in turn is the value of the commodities required to reproduce the worker, and future generations of worker. Wages, therefore, must objectively be sufficient to sustain the worker throughout their entire life, and not just for that period when they have sold their labour-power to the capitalist. This is one problem with basing any Minimum Wage, on an hourly minimum, as opposed to a weekly minimum, or better still a monthly minimum required for the worker's subsistence.

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